My first exposure to No Doctors left me undecided as
to quite where their true talents might lie. There was
some interesting stuff going on an energetic
combination of twisted guitar angles, tense rhythms
and rapid-fire delivery but it sounded suffocated,
buried beneath a haphazard, sloppy production which
sounded at best amateur, at worst barely traceable.
Happily the ERP Saints EP named after Chicago's East
Rogers Park neighborhood where the band have recently
been based is an unexpected pleasure. Sounding clear
and cleaned-up, they don't so much deliver on the faint
promises heard earlier, but instead step aside from
the discarded remnants of their previous sound and
come up with a fresh approach.
Strictly speaking they're not innovators you can trace the lineage of
this music fairly easily but within their frame of
reference they push things to the limit and end up
with something both compelling and uncompromising.
Following a rough No Wave/Post Punk blueprint, the No
Doctors sound is like The Strokes with unchecked
avant-garde leanings, drilling into a well-mined seam
of rock culture but making no concessions to mass
"Biggest" opens things with a jagged
slice of atonal white funk, building up to a series of
trebly peaks and enlivened by some honking saxophone
fills. Beneath its chaotic surface it swings with a
skewed, individual sense of logic. "Floating Woman" is
a swaying blues ballad in a similar vein to Iggy Pop's
"Turn Blue," with vocalist Chauncey Chaumpers giving
it his best Tom Verlaine croon, just stopping short of
becoming a pastiche. Some eccentric tempo shifts and
frayed guitar and sax trade-offs round it off nicely.
The final track, "Future Awaken Widen," gives the band
ample scope to explore with an irresistible,
shambolic momentum, which carries the jagged scree of
freestyle interplay in its wake and even manages to
include a kind of compressed tribute to "Marquee Moon"
with its series of climactic crescendos. In short, ERP
Saints is a wayward, fascinating mini-masterpiece.
Bring on the next album proper.